The Injury Rant

There is no argument over the fact that injuries have plagued Stoke City over the last 18 months. Beginning with the injury to Ryan Shawcross’ back, the physio treatment room at Clayton Wood has always had a patient ever since. It appears that the injury curse is still lingering over the club, as key players have begun this season in the stands rather than on the pitch. Yet, it is the circumstances for all these injuries that have thrown fans and led to confusion and even in some cases anger.

The first to suffer a mysterious injury set back at the beginning of the season was Glen Johnson, arguably the best signing that Hughes has made at the club. He ended the 2015/16 on the sidelines with an injury suffered in the Bournemouth match that looked innocuous at worst. The club suggested that the final day of the season against West Ham would be the most likely return date, and unfortunately Johnson could not recover in time for this. Obviously this is normal and most fans would agree it was not worth the risk playing him in such a dead rubber.

Promisingly he joined the squad in preseason as normal, making appearances against Burton, Preston, Orlando and Orlando B. Then mysteriously he did not travel to Germany for the Hamburg fixture. A shock to all apart from the management who described his absence as something due to his own fitness schedule, not the exact words but something just as vague. Since this point there has been no sightings or further information from the club, it simply appears the Glen Johnson has disappeared into thin air and we can only await for him to appear once more. With no cover being brought in it can only be hoped this is a short lay off and Johnson will be back to his best.

The next to be hit with the injury curse was another who ended last season in the stands, Jack Butland. Little over 24 hours before the curtain raiser at Boro, Butland was seen exiting Clayton Wood on crutches. Investigation into the injury revealed that it was some damaged scar tissue that was causing Butland pain, but would settle down in time for him to return to the squad before the end of the month. Press conference’s suggested there was no appetite to rush him back to football but that he was expected to return within 1-2 weeks. The appearance of Lee Grant on deadline day immediately made fans suspicious as the club already had 3 first team keepers why did we require a fourth? A mere two days later it was revealed that Jack Butland required surgery, which thankfully appears to have gone successfully. Despite this not one statement has been made by the club, with this news coming from Butland himself confirming on twitter news that broke a day earlier in the media.

The final injury mystery to spring this season is that of Xherdan Shaqiri’s calf. Due to the size of these muscles, strains are likely and every fan needs to accept this, but once again this injury seems to have played out longer than first promised. Suffered during the Boro match initial reports from post-match interviews suggested that it would be another short term injury that would only keep Shaqiri out for the game against his old employer, Guardiola. Yet the team sheets for the Stevenage and Everton games were both released and no Shaqiri. Prior to the Everton game reports broke in the Swiss press suggested Shaqiri could be out for up to 6 weeks, and this seems to be spot on information as he has not featured in any international matches over these past 2 weeks.

The frustration for the fans is the total lack of coverage Stoke have given to injury treatments or even diagnosis. The reasonable Potter understands that injuries are hardly an easy business and complications are common (oh yeah another one for the list, Afellay). But the clubs total lack of acknowledgement of injuries suffered and recovery timelines is frustrating and out-rightly worrying. Further to this is the frequent reports come from other outlets. Look at the Afellay incident, nothing from the club since his injury in the back end of last season and yesterday the Sentinel reports a set back to his recovery. The club needs to address this as fans are beginning to become disillusioned as it feels the club is isolating fans, almost in the manner a parent would avoid telling their young child the pet hamster died in the hope they can replace it before they notice.

For those who think injuries are simply an excuse for poor performances, the stats show the exact opposite. Earlier this year I studied the effect of a constant back 4 and goalkeeper. In the 19 games where there was no change from the former set up only 20 goals were conceded and 9 clean sheets were kept. Meanwhile the other 20 matches where there was a change from the week before 35 goals were conceded and only 2 clean sheets kept. It is also worth bearing in mind that the last time we could freely select our defence Ryan Shawcross went on an outrageously long streak of not conceding a goal. So feel free to continue being wrong if you don’t think injuries have ruined everything good we have ever had.

With the importance of injuries and fitness it would be really nice if the club could keep us in the loop, as we are all mature enough to know that the hamster has died and we definitely notice when you try and replace Shaqiri with Walters.

Written by Tom Thrower

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